For further information contact: jake.baum@imperial.ac.uk

(c)  Baum laboratory 2019

When nature makes a spelling mistake...

March 1, 2016

 

Sometimes a single letter change in a protein, a single amino acid change to be precise, can change your life. And I'm not talking about some horrible disease, I'm talking about something good!

 

As a life long milk intolerant I've looked longingly at others consuming lattes, sipping hot chocolates, devouring various cheeses and having their pick of smoothies. Well no longer. And its all down to a single amino acid spelling mistake. It turns out that the milk protein, beta-Caesin comes in different forms. In regular cows milk theres a mixture of two types A1 and A2, the only difference between them being a histidine (H) amino acid at position 67 in the variant A1 substituted by proline (H) in variant A2 form. Some cows have A1, some a mixture and some have only A2. So it turns out the bloating, funny tummy and general grizzly intolerance I've had for milk since I was 18 is all about A1, but NOT A2. With the right milk I am now, quite remarkably, downing pint sized morning smoothies (banana, strawberry, chia seed, hazelnuts and MILK!), whipping up porridge in MILK and (since goats also produce A2 not A1 forms of milk protein), CHEESE has made a sudden reappearance on my menu. So. When it comes to natures spelling mistakes, it turns out a mistaken P for an H makes a huge amount of difference... And I am now, as a result, a much more tolerant person.

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